There are lots of opportunities on campus all throughout North America for students to dive into environmental activities. But what if you want to broaden your reach, and be a part of something bigger? The University of Victoria Sustainability Project (UVSP) has always been a supporter in providing funding for grass-root environmental and social projects. We do have a limited budget, so we generally don’t provide funding a second time.
We challenge students to be financially resilient after their initial start-up funds, and to get creative. Another funding priority is to allow youth to experience national-scale sustainable leadership trainings and conferences. What can you get out of these training? Check out the descriptions and videos below to see how you can get involved!
Whether you are Irish by heritage or green by heart, there is an opportunity for everyone to green their St. Patrick’s day and lower their personal carbon footprint. It’s certainly a chance for everyone to have a bit of fun. Here are a few suggested items you can do:
Drink green: before you plan to consume alcohol, consider having a proper breakfast in the morning, and maybe add on a green spinach or kale smoothie. When it comes time for alcohol, make sure you know your limits, and choose local craft or organic beers; support the local economy.
Eat organically and locally green: Try having a meatless St. Patrick ’s Day. There are delicious vegetable roast recipes you can try. You could invite friends over for some communal cooking; Irish vegetable stew is always a great option for this occasion.
Wear green organics: Invest in an outfit you will wear again, and if possible, make sure it’s made from recycled or organic materials. You could also shop at a thrift store and give a second life to the clothing item.
Switch on the Green Transport mode:
If you are drinking, please don’t drive. If you are the designated driver, try using an electric vehicle or a car-share option. Taking the public bus or walking by foot is the better and safer option. Try to walk with groups of friends or pairs; safety is first.
St. Patrick ’s Day doesn’t have to be about binge drinking and getting a heavy hangover the next day. It’s important to have fun, and why not do it while visiting a pub within walking or bussing distance, and getting locally craft beer in a reusable glass cup. You could also fill up a growler if you are planning to go to friend’s house or host a party at your own. There are so many creative and low-carbon footprint ways to celebrate this fun holiday.
Try not to buy cheap disposable party gear. Instead, decorate your home with real long-lasting green plants. They will create cleaner air for you and your guests! No matter how you plan to ‘green’ your St. Patrick’s day, make sure you make careful decisions and think about the impact of those on yourself, the people around you, and the larger ecosystem. You could even start a friendly competition to see who can celebrate the lowest-carbon footprint St. Patrick’s day, and the winner gets to wear the ultimate green hat!
Whether you celebrate valentines or not, we can smell flowers and chocolate in the air. It is important to keep Fair Trade in mind when consuming products like these. If it is expensive, it does not mean that it was ethically sourced. You may just be paying for the packaging or brand.
A lot of the roses come from Columbia or Ecuador at this time of the year, and farm working conditions are often far from being rosy. If there isn’t a label, ask the store manager where the flower or chocolate comes from. There are currently flowers from BC, and this would be the lower-carbon footprint choice. Below are a few places and brands you can start with for Chocolate and flowers.
Remember that Fair trade flowers and chocolates are not only important during valentines, but all throughout the year. In my experience, it tastes better and closer to home. I know the prices of these tend to be higher, but this way you actually do buy less than the commercial sales that entice you to buy more than you actually need, so at the end of the day, you are being socially, environmentally, and economically responsible. Have a fair valentines everyone!
Shops that sell:
Fair trade/local BC flowers:
It’s one of the most popular beverages we crave in the mornings, during the day, and for a boost during those late nights of procrastination. But there is more to just a cup of coffee or tea.
Where does it come from? Who picked our coffee cherries? Do they really look like cherries in their fresh form? (Yes.) What about our rice, coconut oil, spices, vanilla beans, cotton, fruit, and everything we can so easily buy off the shelves in stores here. Where do they all come from?
I’m part of the UVic Sustainability Project, which focuses on climate change awareness, outreach, global food systems and security, fair trade, and sustainable behaviour change. It’s a fabulous student-run organization to be involved with, and we are primarily funded through the Student Society (UVSS). We organized a trip on November 27 to visit a local coffee trading and roaster: Level Ground Trading.
Stacey Toews, co-founder of Level Ground Trading, speaks from the heartOne of the stand-out stories of the afternoon visit was how every year Level Ground invests a Direct Fair Trade community premium when they purchase Colombian coffee.
Since 1998, they’ve invested in Famicafe in Colombia, which has granted 1,184 academic scholarships so far to rural youth in Colombia, plus investments in infrastructure development in rural mountain schools. Learn more about Level Ground’s values.
Stacey also showed us photos of his small-scale farm (pigs, chickens, eggs, squash, vegetables, onions, potatoes, and more) which was inspiring to our team sitting around the wooden table. Stacey is very family-oriented, and it shows in all his actions both at home and abroad. Stacey and his team are all committed to making good and ethical money for deep social purposes.
Direct fair trade is driven by more than just a few tick boxes to make sure working conditions meet minimum standards. It is above and beyond. Stacey emphasized that international direct trading partnership is based on dialogue, transparency, and respect.
They acknowledge the hard work and risk involved with growing and selling crops, and they focus on giving farmers the opportunity to support sustainable environmental practices whilst increasing independence, education, and positive and safe work conditions.
It is hard to imagine something as simple as buying rice or coconut oil off the grocery store shelves probably required hundreds of laborious hours under unsafe working conditions thousands of miles away in another continent.
Women sometimes have to walk more than five hours carrying sacks of rice or buckets of water equivalent to three times their body weight. It is hard to imagine, but it is the truth.
So the next time you are about to purchase something that is not grown locally in Canada, maybe pay a little extra attention to the packaging, labeling, and company. Your choice and your dollars can make a huge difference.
“One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen can change the world,” said Malala Yousafzai
Who would you rather be? A slave or a lion?
I had the privilege to watch the documentary on an inspiring young teenager’s journey as she survived a gunshot to the head from the Taliban in Pakistan for speaking out for a right to education. She lived a risky life there, and was a refugee in her own country at one point. There is often a confusion between religion and terrorism. It’s not the same. The Taliban and any extremist group were not selling religion or faith; they were selling an ideology. We shouldn’t forget this doesn’t only happen in developing countries. We see this in our very own modern developed countries, just disguised in a different form. We also see this in history.
When the Taliban first started, people thought they were good. When Napoleon first started, people thought he was good too. But then it changed. Power and greed took over. When Wall Street was booming, people thought profit was great! But when we saw the greed and power leading to the 2008 financial crisis, it’s not so fun anymore is it?
As someone from the Middle East, I want to remind the world, misuse of power isn’t only evident in the forms of violence and weapons. It can be seen in the CEO’s of large organizations. It can be seen through women and LGBT communities who continue to fight the unequal salary battles.
Why do we call it “coming out of the closet”? Why did the closet exist in the first place? Why do we have to silence who we are because of what society dictates what the ‘norm’ is? Why do people have to risk their lives and reputation to go to school, get an education, and gain a position requiring more responsibility?
Malala did not stop being an education activist. She is bravery. She stood up. One very interesting point she made is she is indifferent than the 66 million and more girls who are deprived of education. She isn’t unique, and this is why her story is one she shares with many. Raise your voice because children have the right to childhood, and people have the right to education.
Education gives you the power to challenge & question things. Despite the destruction of over 300 schools in Taliban, Malala continued to raise her voice. Fear will silent you. So be brave.
My personal connection to Malala’s story
I was always the girl in class who raised my hands. That is the number one thing my father pinned into my head every day before he sent me off to school. “Always ask. Don’t stop asking until you truly understand. Don’t be ashamed.” I carry his words to this very day. In university, I challenged the tradition ‘race to the bottom’ and infinite economy growth our textbooks outlined in my business textbooks. Does it make sense? If the sole purpose of business was to generate continuous wealth for a small amount of people, what would our world look like in 20 years?
We are already seeing the effects of polluted air, water, and extreme drought. I am not an environmentalist. Yes, the environment is at risk, but so are political and social systematic issues. I am being activist for the people in the Middle East who wake up every day hoping they won’t have to hear a bombing, or the children in China who hope to be able to see the moon or just one star in the clouds of smog. I am being an activist to change the way our schools teach business. I am the change, and will continue my passion, values, and loud voice till it makes an impact! There is no time more critical than now for the privileged nations to do something, take action, and accept that we have to change, for the benefit of not a few, but for the greater. It’s time to think about ‘us’ and not just ‘me’.
So who would you rather be? A slave or a lion? Being a loud lion comes with its risks, but the misery you drown yourself in as a slave will kill you slowly with great suffer.
Here are a few simple questions: Do we have the right to social, environmental, political, and economic sustainability? Do we have the right to education? Do we have the right to clean air? Do we have the right to grow food in our own backyards? Do we have the right to go off-grid and self-sustain our renewable energy supply? I believe everything starts with education, and this is only the beginning.
It’s so hard to get things done in this world. You try so hard, and too often it doesn’t work. But you have to keep going because every NO is a step closer to getting you to a YES. You have to keep trying, and raise your voice, ask those challenging questions. Unbiased education questions things, and make you think critically, and holistically. Think about our current climatic, social, and economic issues. How will we solve it? Change is tough, but so is life. It is up to every one of us to pursue this change.
Education has the power to change things for the better, and this life, is a choice. So what’s your choice? A slave or a lion?
When a company serves their smoothies and other hot beverages in ‘compostable cups’, recycles bottles and cans, and installs energy efficient lighting, they can claim their ‘sustainability fame’. What does sustainability mean to you? For many, the word itself is now attached with ‘green’, ‘eco’, and ‘environmental’ connotations, but for me, the word has been overused and is dead. It’s lost its meaning. Think about everything that we buy and do every day. Have you ever asked yourself if I keep doing this for the next 10 years, how will it create value for myself and our communities? Most people don’t care to think about it, but for the next few days, I challenge you to. Is your choice and action viable? And who does it benefit beyond yourself?
Forget about sustainability. I like to talk about viability: changes and actions that are possible, practical, and reasonable. A friend of mine has a tradition every Saturday brunch where he treats himself to his favourite Indian butter chicken. Upon Fall season, he realized he didn’t have enough money to buy a ticket to go home for Christmas. So I asked him, I know the Indian Butter Chicken is something you look forward to every weekend, but what if you sacrificed that and saved the money for a few months, and stopped your smoking and drinking habits so that you can save for a flight home. I pulled out the calculator, made the calculations, and showed him the numbers that it was a viable plan. It took some convincing, but he agreed to commit to the challenge I was proposal. It was probably something he never thought he could.
Before he flew home for Christmas that year, I invited him for cup of fair trade coffee at Habit Café downtown, and congratulated him for what he had accomplished, but also told him, you not only did yourself a favour economically, but socially and environmentally as well. He looked at me as if I was speaking in an alien language. By cutting out cigarettes, he was being socially and environmentally responsible so that others would not have to breathe in second-hand smoke, and there would be less litter and garbage. By cutting out the Indian butter chicken from his diet, and going for mid-day runs to achieve his target of building healthier physical habits, he improved his long-term health. “I never thought of it that way.” He said. “I was just trying to save money so I can buy a ticket home to see my family, but now that I see the bigger picture, I see how the benefits are interconnected.”
We live in an ecosystem. Our human bodies are ecosystems of their own. Without a healthy pumping heart, our organs won’t work, and without healthy kidneys, urinating would be very difficult; everything is interdependent of each other, and this is how our bodies are able to function day after day in a viable working system. The current economic system we like to focus a lot of attention to does not work, and we see it, but choose to ignore he issue. We choose to focus on economic differences because it’s what we’ve been taught in school, in books, at home, at work, but does it really work? I’m not proposing everyone should care about buying ethically sourced products, but I am proposing we should change the way businesses are run, and that ethical purchasing should be the norm, and that they can drive behavior changes a lot quicker.
From the Divest UVic Team: Written by Christina Price
Since February, Divest UVic worked hard to win the student referendum that was tied to the UVSS elections. By using the Nationbuilder program we were able to e-mail hundreds if not a few thousand students asking them to vote. We also printed off calling lists and called hundreds of students reminding them to vote. In the few weeks leading up to the referendum we had many tabling events and did many classrooms talks in order to build our petition and gather contact info. What was the result?
We won the referendum in March as 77% of students that voted, voted in favour of the UVSS lobbying the university to divest its holdings in fossil fuels! This was a crucial win for the campaign because now the campaign is sponsored by the UVSS which means we get more funding, personnel help in terms of UVSS staff time and a new flux of energetic student leaders who are passionate about the movement and wanting to see positive change towards sustainability.
An additional positive outcome of our Get-Out-The-Vote effort was that people who voted in favour of divestment also typically voted for UVSS candidates that were in favour of the movement as well as other sustainability initiatives. In this way, Divest UVic helped elect sustainability-oriented student society leaders. For example, Tristan Ryan, one of our most dedicated volunteers and organizers is now the Director of Finance and Nathan Michael, another Divest UVic volunteer and organizer is a Director at Large.
Emily Thiessen describes the activities of Divest UVic that took place over this summer:
"Over the summer, we began organizing in separate working groups. The research team read research briefs from Divest McGill, Divest U of T and other universities in order to inform our own report that will be sent to UVic's Board of Governors and Foundation Board.
The report will focus on how UVic-specific fossil fuel holdings have been performing, and how divested portfolios have been performing in the past year, as well as the benefits of divestment for the university's reputation. We also met with faculty, and staff from the Professional Employees Association, CUPE 4163, CUPE 917 and CUPE 915 to talk about upcoming staff resolutions on divestment, and how to collaborate in the future. We met with Jim Dunston, Associate Vice President Student Affairs, to discuss the possibility of collaboration. Divest UVic also participated in a nationwide action called We > Tar Sands in which students held sit-ins in their MP offices to call for stronger climate policy.”
Here are a few quotes from students who have been involved:
“Volunteering with Divest UVic has inspired me and given me hope for a better future because I can see the change that passionate, caring and committed people can create.” - Ida Jorgensen
“Volunteering with Divest UVic was great because it builds skills such as volunteer organization and public speaking.” - Jonah Timms
“I've learned skills in everything from volunteer coordination to writing a press release that will be useful for pretty much everything else I want to do.” - Emily Thiessen
“Being a part of Divest UVic has given me hope for positive change towards a more sustainable future and it’s such a privilege to work with such passionate people.” - Christina Price
It's that time of year once again where we celebrate the fall harvest, and ask the question: "what are we thankful for?" The common answers often involve family, friends, food, and while all these aspect of life are important, how about broadening our perspectives, and be thankful for the amazing free service trees provide: giving us clean air every day.
How about the amazing horse chestnuts which keep our house spiders away that scatter beautifully on the streets of Victoria. Or the amazing service the locally owned café staff provide you every morning? I always express gratitude to the people around me that make my life more colorful each day. I'm also very thankful for having the opportunity to make a global difference with my investment choices.
I choose fair-trade products because I believe in fair living wages not only locally, but globally too. I invest in clean portfolio funds because I know they are aligned with my values, and am thankful managers listen to stakeholder concerns, provide plans for improvements, and act upon it. Thanksgiving is a special time of the year, and although we get all excited about our giant turkeys, maybe try exploring organic turkey options this year, or have a meatless one, and go vegetarian! Check out 33 great vegetarian Thanksgiving recipes.
Think about everything you purchase. It's an investment choice. One choice can make a huge difference! Thanksgiving isn't the only time to reflect on the precious moments and things we all experience in our lives. One great way to remind ourselves is to ask the question; what am I grateful for today? Even on the darkest days, there is always something and someone to be grateful of.
In the Summer (2015), Kay from the CFUV Women's Radio Collective applied for UVSP sustainability project grant. Here are some of Kay's words on her experience:
I will admit it: this project made me really nervous. When Mexican artist Hector Espinosa asked me to curate a workshop on collective mural painting, including bringing 30 people together with big ideas about social justice and little or no art background, I just didn't know if it was going to work.
Could we all share space, have a dialogue, come up with something cohesive, and share skills fast enough to execute it well? In principle I believe in a world where people can come together to do things like this, but I just didn't know if it would work in the real world.
Maybe we needed more structure, or more time. Would people argue? Would the mural look bad? At the end of the day, I had to have faith in the participants that it was going to be good. And it was. 30 strangers came together, had a 3-hour dialogue in which they talked about how to affect community change through art, came up with a mural design, and shared skills and space beautifully.
Spirits were high as we painted the enormous mural in half the time we had planned. The workshop really helped participants build capacity to change their own communities too: since that day, I have heard of 3 participants who have initiated their own mural painting projects. I came away from this workshop with new-found courage. I learned that it is possible to build sustainable communities across difference when we reach out and believe in each other.
About the Author:
Kay Gallivan is a film, radio, and print journalist who lives and works in Coast Salish/Lekwungen Territories. In 2014 she co-directed the documentary "100 Layers of Beige", a social history of Esquimalt's Trackside Gallery Graffiti wall. This is Kay's third time curating a group mural, having previously curated mural work at Museo de la Ciudad in Ecuador and at the Slide Room Gallery. Kay is currently working on a film project about political graffiti in Mexico and co-curating a speaker series on street art with The City Talks.